Shop locally for everyone on your list
Worried about finding the perfect something for that someone special this holiday season? Don’t be. There’s no need to scour the internet or wait for big brown boxes to arrive for holiday shopping, whether you’re looking for gifts for your loved ones, friends, neighbors or colleagues. Take a look at some fantastic gift ideas that you’ll find around town.
Looking sharp (and staying warm)
As Chicago’s trademark cold weather approaches, it’s time to think winter! This holiday season, give a gift with a purpose.
JAYNE (483 Central Ave, Highland Park, 847-433-1911) makes it easy to send comfort and joy. Their collection of UGG socks feature a fleece lining and couldn’t be cozier.
“In Chicago it’s all about layers and we sure know how to bundle! Here at JAYNE, we’re experts at combining trend and functionality,” said JAYNE’s Roger Wolff. “Whether you’re looking for a new go-to chunky scarf, that obsession-worthy cuddly sweater or those to-die-for winter boots, we’ve got you covered!”
For music and fashion lovers, there’s no better place than
Rock N Rags (1821 St. Johns, Highland Park, 847-432-4344). The store is made up of unique and edgy clothing handpicked by the father-daughter buying pair, Steve and Kira Kessler. Best of all, virtually nothing there is over $100.
“Our super-soft fuzzy jackets are immensely popular,” said Steve Kessler. “They look great and feel great. People even like wearing them to hang out and watch TV.”
Because lace-up women’s clothes are on trend this year, Rock N Rags has a collection of lace-up tops, rompers and dresses. Another must-have are authentic, retro rock-band t-shirts perfect for the music-lover in your life. The store recently scored a number of limited edition t-shirts from Poplar Creek Music Theater, the music venue that’s been shuttered for 20 years. Be sure to pair that with a vinyl record from the store.
For the men in your life, you can’t do wrong at Avant for Men (1849 Green Bay Road, Highland Park, 847-681-1100). Since 2009, Avant for Men has carried a wide variety of the finest quality suits, sportswear, outerwear, footwear and accessories for men of all ages, along with made-to-measure services on tailored clothing demand because of the weight and style, like this quilted suede jacket with removable shearling collar.
Galam also said that Avant’s custom shirts make a terrific gift, because they are guaranteed to fit impeccably and the recipient can get the shirt made exactly the way he wants.
While ties have always been a traditional gift choice, consider giving a pocket square instead. “If you’re not wearing a tie, you’re wearing a pocket square,” said Galam. “It’s the new necktie.”
Stationery is always the write choice
The art of writing is making a comeback this year, according to Sheryl Oberman at the Stationery Station (610 Central Ave, Highland Park, 847-432-3044). She recommends personalized stationery, since people enjoy giving personalized gifts that show that attention was paid towards the purchase.
“Our knowledgeable staff can guide you on personalization options from a variety of different vendors,” said Oberman. “We take the time to familiarize ourselves as new merchandise arrives and take into consideration what is on trend that season. We meet with each company’s sales rep individually to pick and choose what we feel will appeal to our clientele.”
To make gift giving even easier, you can now order gifts, invitations and stationery from the Stationery Station website.
“As much as we love meeting with our customers in person, it makes it easy for people to order quick gifts that will ship directly to their home,” said Oberman.
In addition to invitations, stationery and gifts, the Stationery Station also offers a popular custom gift wrapping service. You can purchase a gift in the store – and best of all, bring in your own gifts – and they will help you select wrapping paper and ribbons to your liking.
For those who like to work with their hands
If you know someone who loves yarn, add Mia Bella Yarn & Accessories (1815 St Johns Ave, Highland Park, 847-748-8419) to your list. Sarah Ocepek at Mia Bella recommends colorful project bags and bulky yarn, perfect for both knitters and crocheters.
“The Raskin Cowl pattern, with two skeins of Snug by Mia Bella, a fantastic cashmere blend yarn, is definitely one of the must-haves this season,” said Ocopek.
Aside from yummy yarn and great accessories, Mia Bella offers private lessons, classes and custom patterns designed just for you. Gift certificates can be purchased for any dollar amount or for a bundle of private lessons, a thoughtful gift for the creative person in your life.
Gifts that give back
People are increasingly looking for ways to make their holiday gifting help others and benefit their local and the global community while also giving something truly meaningful to their loved ones.
“The number one trend we’re seeing is something we’re hoping isn’t a trend at all but is here to stay is gifts that give back,” said Christen Gundlach at WORKSHOP (1929 Sheridan Rd., Highland Park, 847-433-5577).
People are increasingly interested in giving experiences instead of gifts, said Gundlach. Parents in particular are wary about adding more toys and clutter to their house. Things like crafting kits are a great alternative to your normal gifts – they build lifelong skills while also offering hours of fun for your kids. And at the end, they have something that’s really special, because they made it with their own two hands.
At WORKSHOP, look for their DIY Embroidery Kits. Kids can learn to embroider while making these really beautiful, heirloom-quality toys that are sure to be treasured. The handcrafted embroidery kits pair classic stitches with contemporary illustration. They come in all the cutest animals too – sloths, monkeys, panda bears, fiesta kittens and raccoons, just to name a few.
Plus, the staff at WORKSHOP are obsessed with their collection of handmade stuffed animals. They’re hand-knit by women artisans in Peru from alpaca and organic cotton, providing employment for women from all walks of life while preserving the traditional art of hand knitting. They’re cuddly and adorable, perfect for kids of all ages (including the young at heart).
Experiences make memorable gifts
Some of the best gifts don’t come in a box at all.
“‘Experiences’ versus ‘things’ seems to continue trending,” said Megan O’Connor at Salons by JC (229 Skokie Valley Road, Highland Park, 847-877-4784). “Experiences that you can customize and even do together are always treasured. For example, a day of beauty or wellness, especially when done with a friend or spouse – that is truly a wonderful gift.”
Salons by JC of Highland Park offers a number of beauty and wellness services, including styling, color, hair extensions, full body waxing, facials, eye lash extensions, permanent make up, eyelash/eyebrow tinting, nails, blow out, massage and special event make up, to name a few. Pamper your recipient with a few of their favorite services. Throw in a few beauty and wellness products that look great and smell great – and you’ve instantly created a holiday gift that won’t be forgotten.
Also memorable is gift of shared, human experience. The Improv Playhouse (1991 Sheridan Road, Highland Park, 847-968-4529) offers gift certificates for any of their comedy classes and their weekly live performances.
“The fun memories our students and audience members take away last a whole lot longer than material things,” said David Stuart of the Improv Playhouse. “And in a world of digital detachment, we provide good old analog laughter. We’re offering a guaranteed great time for people of any age or background.”
At the Improv Playhouse, classes in improv and stand-up run year-round, including a number starting in January right after the holidays (“When everything’s cold and dark and you need some cheering up,” added Stuart.) Kids and adults alike have a great time, meet new people and may even learn how to brighten up the world of those around them.
The gift of good health and good taste
Fresh spices and teas add flavor and a ton of nutritional benefits, making them perfect gifts for cooks and those looking out for their health. Love that Spice (1893 Sheridan Rd, Highland Park, 847-780-4658) grinds their spices daily in small batches to ensure everything they offer is extremely nutrient and vitamin rich.
According to Love that Spice’s Marlena Jayatilake, one of their biggest sellers is the Antiflammation Herbal Tea Blend, with hand-peeled and organic turmeric and ginger tea. Another is the Love my Liver Herbal tea, which detoxes the liver with its mix of milk thistle, hand-peeled turmeric and dandelion leaves.
If someone you know is looking to kick the coffee habit, check out their I Can’t Believe it’s Not Coffee tea made from organic roasted dandelion roots and chicory. It’s blended into a coffee drink that tastes just like the real thing but detoxes the liver and kidney.
On the more traditional end, Love that Spice also offers a wide assortment of gourmet spices and teas like jasmine flower, herbal lemonade, Indian chai and pumpkin spice tea.
Great gifts for her
For the ladies in your life, stop by ENAZ (444 Central Avenue, Highland Park, 847-433-6466) for fun accessories, vibrant clothes, artisan jewelry and their custom spa bar with lotions, soaps and body oils.
Samantha Shapiro at ENAZ recommends the Ah!Dorned tassel keychains, which will enliven anything from backpacks to brief cases to diaper bags. You can customize the design on the tassels with vibrant square blocks. Think initials, sorority Greek letters, hashtags, hearts and more.
Their Bandolier crossbody cellphone carrier is one of ENAZ’s hottest items, said Shapiro. These all leather carriers have adjustable straps and a cash/credit sleeve with snap closure on the back.
Choker necklaces provide an easy, vintage-inspired look perfect for any holiday party. Dress them up with a dress or down with jeans. At ENAZ, you’ll find exclusive creations by jeweler design Rita Ratskoff.
Lastly, you can’t go wrong with customized scents from ENAZ’s perfume spa bar with 20 amazing scents. Choose a perfumed oil in a 1/3 ounce rollette or add it to a body lotion or bath gel, which doubles as luxurious bubble bath. The staff will put them in a basket or a pretty bag with tissue for an easy, inspired gift.
Get inspired by nature
You can’t go wrong with the best that Mother Nature has to offer. For the past 28 years, Floral Gardens (2109 Green Bay Road, Highland Park, 847-432-3420) has been creating inspired, one-of-a-kind floral and plant displays and centerpieces that are tailored to your specifications. They have a wide variety of exclusive gifts and floral containers that are perfect for seasonal gift giving.
“Our experienced designers and knowledgeable sales associates are able to offer customers ideas and suggestions for all types of floral styles, from traditional to contemporary and everything in between,” said Rosann Santi of Floral Gardens. “We use the highest quality of flowers and plants available, offer exceptional customer service and stand behind all our work.”
Another destination close to nature is the Chicago Botanic Garden. Not only does the Chicago Botanic Garden’s Garden Shop (1000 Lake Cook Road, Glencoe, 847-835-5440) specialize in horticultural-inspired gifts, they also focus on items local to our area.
“Shopping local and giving back to our communities adds value to even the smallest gesture because your gift is for a purpose,” said Kim Rabago, Store Director at the Chicago Botanic Gardens.
You can’t get more local than their exclusive botanic home accent lines, created using vintage prints from their library. The Garden Shop also offers Tru Blooms Chicago, a limited-edition perfume reminiscent of a day along the shores of Lake Michigan, along with regional confections from Wisconsin-based KT Toffee and Long Grove Confections from Illinois.
The Garden Shop is a great source of amaryllis and paper white bulbs, Christmas cactus and bonsai assortment. Plus, their traditional, annual cardinal collection is back, and as always, is a beautiful addition to any holiday table. If you’re looking for last-minute gifts, check out their number of prewrapped “gift to go” options, including Frasier fir candles, Chicago Botanic Garden Travel mugs and A Journey to Nine Islands, a beautiful book that guides you from the inception of the garden through present day.
Last but not least, Rabago reminds that one of the most enjoyable gifts of all is a gift membership to the Chicago Botanic Garden – and if you purchase three memberships, you receive $10 off each membership. Member benefits include free parking and special member discounts throughout the garden.
Jennifer Alten is a Chicagoland-based writer and marketing communications strategist who specializes in getting businesses of all sizes noticed. You can reach her at email@example.com.